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Bond set at $1,000,000 for George Zimmerman

The judge in the George Zimmerman case, Seminole County, Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr., ordered George Zimmerman’s bond to be set at $1,000,000 with additional conditions including electronic monitoring, restrictions on leaving Seminole County, Florida without permission, check ins required every forty eight hours, curfew between 6:00pm and 6:00am, as well as requirements that he not enter the Orlando-Sanford International Airport, open or maintain a bank account, or apply for or obtain a passport. According to the judge’s order, the “increased bail is not a punishment; it is meant to allay [the] Court’s concern that [George Zimmerman] intended to flee the jurisdiction and a lesser amount would not ensure his presence in court.”

A bond is set in a criminal matter in an amount reasonably determined by the judge to be sufficient to deter the Defendant from absconding and failing to return to Court. If a criminal Defendant bonds out of jail and subsequently fails to appear in Court, in most circumstances the judge can order that the bond be forfeited. Courts reason that if bonds are too low on serious charges, a criminal Defendant could decide that they would rather forfeit the money paid for the bond rather than return to the Court.

Zimmerman’s bond was increased after initially being set at $150,000 and subsequently revoked after the State of Florida sought revocation of the bond based on the allegation that the Defendant had presented false testimony at the initial bond hearing. In the latest bond order, Judge Lester, Jr. stated that the Defendant “has flaunted the system” and that a higher bond was appropriate in this case. The eight page bond order outlines in extensive detail the analysis followed by the Court in determining the bond amount. The Court considered the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence against the Defendant, the Defendant’s ties to the community, employment history, financial resources and mental condition, the Defendant’s past and present conduct, whether the Defendant is a danger to the community, the source of funds to post bail, the probability that the Defendant would pose a threat to the victim’s family (noting that the Court found no evidence that the Defendant would pose any threat), whether the Defendant had committed a new crime while on pre-trial release, and the ability of the Defendant to pay the bail (noting that “setting an excessive bail is the functional equivalent of setting no bail at all.”


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Supreme Court strikes bulk of Arizona Immigration law (SB 1070)

The Supreme Court recently affirmed in part and reversed in part, in a 5-3 decision, the ruling of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the constitutional challenge to Arizona’s immigration law (SB 1070).  The Court ruled that the powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States preempt the attempted efforts of Arizona to regulate immigration within its borders.

The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents, and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.  – Opinion of the Court (No. 11-182)

The decision halted enforcement of sections 3, 5(C) and 6 of SB 1070 that had been challenged in the case.  The decision was based on the clear “broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens” held by the federal government.  Despite the well settled preemption of immigration regulation by the federal government, states such as Arizona have attempted to pass legislation that attempts to usurp such power and authorize its own regulation of immigration.  The Supreme Court has sent a clear message to Arizona and other states that such legislation must not violate the constitution no matter how frustrated the state is with the federal government’s abject failure to come up with a fair, reasonable and workable solution to the immigration problem in the United States.

The Court did allow Section 2(b) of SB 1070 to stand for the present time without fully addressing the constitutionality of such provision.  The section states: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this State or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this State where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.”  The Supreme Court’s opinion, delivered by Justice Kennedy, does not state outright that such provision is constitutional but rather that the “nature and timing of this case counsel caution in evaluating the validity of Section 2(B).”  The Supreme Court is always very careful to address only those issues that are properly before it, from both a substantive and procedural basis.  The Court found, for example, that if the provisions of Section 2(B) could be interpreted or enforced in an unconstitutional way (such as “[d]etaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status”), and thus be subject to legal challenge.

 


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Governor Neal Signs Pro Life Bill

"Photo by Alana Joyner, Photographer for Governor Neal - Used with permission

A copy of HB 954 as passed can be found on the website of the Georgia Legislature (http://www1.legis.ga.gov/legis/2011_12/pdf/hb954.pdf).

The press release from the Governor’s office regarding the signing of the bill can be found on the Governor’s website (http://gov.georgia.gov/00/press/detail/0,2668,165937316_165937374_184598709,00.html).


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Governor Neal Signs Major Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

Georgia’s governor has signed HB 1176 into law, enacting legislation passed by the Georgia legislature in the recent session to make significant changes to the criminal justice system in Georgia.  Aimed at encouraging more efficient use of the limited resources of the justice system in Georgia, HB 1176 encourages the enhanced use of outside of the box sentencing programs, such as pre-trial diversion and alternative courts (such as DUI courts) and increases the threshold between misdemeanors and felonies and modifies sentencing requirements for certain theft and drug charges (in order to reduce the number of individuals in prison for relatively minor offenses).  The bill will also extend the statute of limitations for certain crimes against children.

The Governor has vowed to continue to fund efforts in the State to increase efficiency in the system and search for alternative methods of prosecution and sentencing to limit the use of expensive bed space for low level criminal offenders. 

A copy of HB 1176 as passed can be found on the website of the Georgia Legislature (http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20112012/127628.pdf).

The press release from the Governor announcing the signing of the bill into law can be found on the Governor’s website (http://gov.georgia.gov/00/press/detail/0,2668,165937316_165937374_184643488,00.html).

The report of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform report can be found on the Georgia Legislature’s website (http://www.legis.ga.gov/Documents/GACouncilReport-FINALDRAFT.pdf).


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